“THE LIMEHO– USE GOLEM”— Fantasy and Reality

 

“The Limehouse Golem”

Fantasy and Reality

Amos Lassen

A series of murders has shaken the community to the point where people believe that only a legendary creature from dark times – the mythical so-called Golem – must be responsible. This murderer is stalking the streets of Limehouse in Victorian London, killing viciously and spreading panic. The killer has become known as the Limehouse Golem; named after the medieval Jewish monster made of clay. Police Inspector John Kildare (Bill Nighy) is brought in to investigate and he begins to wonder if the killer might be the recently dead John Cree (Sam Reid). As he investigates, he comes to Cree’s wife, Lizzie (Olivia Cooke), as well as the world of the music hall theatre where she used to work. The music hall is run by a cross-dressing comedy star Dan Leno (Douglas Booth). Meanwhile, the number of potential suspects continues to grow.

Inspector Kildare has been ostracized by Scotland Yard for not being a guy who gets married and he seems to think that the reason he has been given the random string of murders is because he can be blamed for the Yard’s inevitable failure. This is the works hard to prove them wrong. Elizabeth Cree (Olivia Cooke) is on trial for poisoning her writer husband (Sam Reid). This is significant to Kildare because Mr. Cree was one of four visitors to the British Library when a weird sort of confession was penned into a volume called “Murder, Considered as one of the Fine Arts”. The others were real-life novelist and opium addict George Gissing, obscure political theorist Karl Marx, and theatrical star Dan Leno.

Leno is the man to watch. He is the most popular music-hall performer of the time and place. Director Juan Carlos Medina places emphasis on the strange and the creepy that pays off in the many grotesque imaginings of the unseen Golem’s murders. There is a lot of love in the theatrical scenes. The film is an adaptation of a murder mystery by the British critic and historian Peter Ackroyd. The Limehouse Golem is thought of as a hulking figure in black that suggests a conjuring of all of Britain’s latent psychosexual sickness.

The film is preoccupied with violence as either a response to oppression or an embodiment of the same. The fictional Limehouse Golem is notable for the arbitrariness of his murders and this is a reflection of the democracy that cannot find a motive for the crimes. Prostitutes are killed and hung as declarations of war, but so are garment sellers, actors, and Jewish intellectuals. Karl Marx (Henry Goodman), who studies at the British museum where the Limehouse Golem is known to go, is questioned about the killings. The performances are excellent all around but it is Bill Nighy who will be best remembered for his performance as Kildare.

What I found to be intriguing is that several of the lead characters are LGBT. As it’s set in Victorian times, no one comes right out and says it, but there are hints towards the fact Dan Leno, Lizzie, Kildare and his sergeant, George Flood (Daniel Mays), are probably not straight. It is frustrating that this is never completely resolved and these sexualities are important to the movie. To solve the killings, Kildare must unravel the story of Elizabeth’s life. Since they are both sexual outcasts who’ve suffered abuse and discrimination, Kildare and Elizabeth bond over their mutual alienation from patriarchy and this connects them to a killer who yearns to highlight Britain’s insidious and hypocritical methods of re-exploiting the already exploitive culture of violence and sexual stigmatization through newspapers and theater, essentially selling the country’s cruelty back to itself.

The story is told in flashback as Kildare questions Elizabeth to formulate a defense and he’s also interrogating other suspects so he can prove the late John Cree guilty by process of elimination. The Limehouse Golem, as the serial killer calls himself, has to be one of the few people who were in the There are a lot of twists and turns in the plot but the problem comes when fantasy and reality fail to meet.